Skatokhasm: Another Word You Know You Need

How does one say “shithole” in Ancient Greek? As with other such esoteric considerations, this takes us into the depths of metaphor and meaning. Is a “shithole” a place whence shit emerges or one in which shit properly settles to age? To be more pointed, when we say “shithole”, do we mean the rectum (so is it a synonym for “asshole”) or do we mean a receptacle too primitive and unformed to be graced with the designation ‘toilet’?

I think when the leader of what was once the free world uses the term , he probably means the second meaning–that the countries designated so are “primitive”, bereft of proper sanitation, and, as such, both filled with excrement (in his excitable mind) and a worthy place for excrement to stay. Thanks to the magic of the conceptual metaphor, of course, the “shithole” can simultaneously indicate both origin and receptacle. One reason it is terribly racist is that the people who move from one to the other or inhabit them are, by extension, excrement.

Because I process trauma and horror through ancient Greek and lexicography, I need to ‘own’ this word by putting it in Greek. I think the stronger force of this metaphor is the location of discarded shit not the organ of excretion. Ancient Greek does not have a clear parallel (and believe me, gentle reader, I looked). I would love to hear some other suggestions. I put the call on Twitter.

The best suggestion, I think, is σκατοχάσμα (skatokhasma, see below). I like it because it has clear parallels (e.g. skatophage). Also, it sounds like “shit-gasm” which is what I think happens every time a certain chief executive speaks. Weaknesses: khasma is not very productive in ancient Greek compounds and is also rather ‘epic’ in scope. In English, “hole” is dimunitive a small. Shitholes are thus additionally awful because of their insignificance.

Honorable Mentions: τὸ σκατώρυγμον (skatorugmon). this has the sense of something hastily and poorly made by people. Also, κοπροβάραθρον is, as one correspondent declared, totally “metal” and, really epic. (Also, coprophilia is something the captain of our ship might cop to). The Lexicographer Zonaras treats all three of these nouns as synonyms (“Barathron: A ditch. A depth. The maw of the earth.” Βάραθρον. ὄρυγμα· βάθος· χάσμα γῆς). For me, barathron is mythical; orugmon is man-made, and khasma is more generic and ‘natural’. I prefer it, in sum, because of its huuugeness. It is really big. And the speaker mentioned above doesn’t do anything small.

Some Instructive Compounds

κοπρόνους: “manure-minded”
κοπράγωγεω: “to collect crap”
κόπρειος: “full of crap”
κοπρολογεῖν: “to gather crap”
κοπροφαγεῖν: “to eat crap”
κοπροστόμος: “foul-mouthed”
σκατοφάγος: “shit-eater”
κόπρανα: “excrements”
κοπραγωγός: “shit-bearer”
κοπρία: “dung-heap”
κοπρίζω: “to make dung”
κοπρικός: “full of it”
κοπροθέσιον: “a place where dung is put”. ‘Shit-bucket”
κοπροδοχεῖον: “cess pool”
κοπροποιός: “dung-making”
σκατοφάγος: “shit eater”
σκαταιβάτης: “shit-walker”
σκωραμὶς: “shit pot”; cf. Ar.Lys. 371: σκωραμὶς κωμῳδική: “comedic shitpot”

Image result for medieval manuscript toilet

From Beekes:


Tawdry Tuesday: Two From the Greek Anthology

The fifth book of the Greek Anthology is filled with ‘Erotic’ poems. Most are tame; some are funny; and a few are just dreadful.  Today, a few using  a fine Greek verb βινεῖν (binein).

5.29 Killaktoros
“Screwing is sweet: who claims otherwise? But when it costs
Money, it is bitterer than hellebore.”

῾Αδὺ τὸ βινεῖν ἐστι. τίς οὐ λέγει; ἀλλ’ ὅταν αἰτῇ
χαλκόν, πικρότερον γίνεται ἐλλεβόρου.

5.126 Philodemus

“He gives her five talents for one turn
and fucks her while shaking—and, dear god, she isn’t pretty.
I give Lysianassa five drachmas for twelve turns—
I fuck a better woman and do it openly.
Either I am completely insane, or all that remains
is to lop off his twin balls with an axe.”

Πέντε δίδωσιν ἑνὸς τῇ δεῖνα ὁ δεῖνα τάλαντα,
καὶ βινεῖ φρίσσων καί, μὰ τόν, οὐδὲ καλήν·
πέντε δ’ ἐγὼ δραχμὰς τῶν δώδεκα Λυσιανάσσῃ,
καὶ βινῶ πρὸς τῷ κρείσσονα καὶ φανερῶς.
πάντως ἤτοι ἐγὼ φρένας οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ τό γε λοιπὸν
τοὺς κείνου πελέκει δεῖ διδύμους ἀφελεῖν.

Our gentle readers will probably note the variation in the translation of βινεῖν.  It is a rather ancient verb, it appears in a fragment of Archilochus ( fr. 152.2L γυναῖ]κα βινέων[) and, of course, Aristophanes drops some b-bombs from time to time as in the Frogs (740):

“For how isn’t he noble, when he knows only how to drink and screw?”

ΞΑ. Πῶς γὰρ οὐχὶ γεννάδας,
ὅστις γε πίνειν οἶδε καὶ βινεῖν μόνον;

But if no one told you that βινεῖν is the equivalent of “fucking”, you’d have to look at the LSJ (which uses Latin “inire, coire of illicit intercourse.”), or an ancient Lexicographer who cites Solon (Hesychius):

βινεῖν:”In Solon, to have sex by force—to conjugate against custom”

βινεῖν· παρὰ Σόλωνι τὸ βίᾳ μίγνυσθαι. τὸ δὲ κατὰ νόμον ὀπύειν


But my favorite entry comes from the Byzantine Encyclopedia, the Suda.


Suda: “Binein: to have intercourse; or to chirp like a bird. It occurs in epigrams.”

Βινεῖν: τὸ συνουσιάζειν· ἢ τὸ πιπίζειν. ἐν ᾿Επιγράμμασι·


Does anyone want to take a stab at some broader etymologies for the verb?

A Tawdry Tuesday Trio from Martial

Warning: As usual, these are not for the faint of heart or those with delicate sensibilities.



“Lesbia swears that she has never been fucked for free.
This is true, when she wants to be fucked, she has to pay.”

Lesbia se jurat gratis numquam esse fututam.
Verum’st. Cum futui vult, numerare solet.


“You spy on me when I bathe, Philomusus,
And then you ask me why my smooth boys
Are so well-hung? Philomusus,
I’ll answer your query simply:
So they can ass-fuck peeping Toms.”

Spectas nos, Philomuse, cum lavamur,
et quare mihi tam mutuniati
sint leves pueri subinde quaeris.
Dicam simpliciter tibi roganti:
pedicant, Philomuse, curiosos.

“You are a spy and a gossip;
you are a liar and a crook,
And you are a cock-sucker and a pimp.
I am amazed, Vacerra
That you don’t have any money.”

Et delator es et calumniator,
et fraudator es et negotiator,
et fellator es et lanista. Miror
quare non habeas, Vacerra, nummos.

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